Sunday, April 5, 2009

Millet: Bring On the Bird Seed

I probably used millet for the first time in preschool. Remember those pinecone bird feeders smeared with peanut butter and rolled in birdseed? I've never been particularly interested in birds or the composition of their food, which means I didn't actually learn that millet is a key component of ordinary birdseed until I was an adult.

My first encounter with millet as a food source was in Russia. My host dad, Zhenya, brought some home in a little 2 lb. sack. I looked at it, and he said, "Eta prosa." Prosa, of course, what was I thinking and where was my dictionary? I deduced it must be couscous and thought it might be good for breakfast. I cooked my prosa in water, topped it with jam, and ate a deeply unsatisfying meal. So ended my relationship with millet for quite a while.

I decided to give it another shot after my celiac diagnosis. I mean, why limit myself even further by turning up my nose at a grain after one bad experience? I check millet out on wikipedia and found out that millet is a fairly common staple grain in many semi-arid and arid countries, including India and many African nations. Check out this website for more information about millet.

Millet was actually one of the first grains we fed the Little Potamus, and he loves it, especially millet-cauliflower mash, which has the surprising texture of mashed potatoes (see below for a recipe). Millet seems to pair particularly well with tahini, so lately I've been eating it for breakfast with that and a little soy milk.

Basic Millet

1 cup millet
2-3 cups water
pinch of salt

Heat a little olive oil in a pan. Add the millet and cook until the grains smell toasty. Add 2-2 1/2 cups of water and cook for about 20 minutes until all of the water is absorbed. You might need to add more water if you want very soft grains. Add salt and pepper for a very simple dish, but millet is also excellent with nut butters, cheese, scallions, toasted nuts, etc. (though perhaps not all at the same time!).

Here are some ideas for cooking with millet:
Mark Bittman's Autumn Millet Bake at 101 Cookbooks
Gluten-Free Mommy's Millet Oatmeal Bread
Millet-Quinoa-Cashew Kugel
Spicy Millet-Chickpea Pancakes
Millet-Cauliflower Mash (add cheese, tahini, or miso to the mash at the end for a great variation)
Karina's Gluten-Free Irish Soda Bread (made with millet)


CinnamonQuill said...

Just found your blog, but hello from a fellow gluten-free millet lover. :) Have you tried that Mark Bittman millet bake? I'm debating whether I should or not...Sounds good, but I'm not sure.

Gluten Free In the Greens said...

It was pretty good but not phenomenal. Definitely season it heavily and add plenty of liquid; otherwise it can get dry. I'm living on millet here in Tbilisi so try it cooked in milk for breakfast with dried fruit and toasted walnuts! Thanks for visiting!